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Creating a timeline : Recommended Resources • Writing Forum | WritersDigest.com

Creating a timeline

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Oldtimer
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Creating a timeline

Postby Oldtimer » Fri Jun 20, 2014 7:40 am

I need to create a timeline so that I can keep tabs on my characters who jump backwards and forwards in time over a period of at least one thousand five hundred years. I tried making a paper one, first In a book and then on sheets of graph paper sticky-taped together, but both of them were unwieldy. Then I tried Excel, using a SmartArt graphic, but couldn't find a suitable template. It seems that my best option is to create a custom timeline in Excel, which can cope with twenty characters, but before I embark on this long, detailed task I wondered if anybody else has faced the same challenge. If so, how did you create your timeline, please?

I've probably put this question on the wrong board. If it should be in Recommended Resources, will pls or Terry move it for me, please? Thank you.
Read samples of my Martian series (by Dorothy Piper) and two romances (by Joni Havel) on Smashwords.
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Re: Creating a timeline

Postby pls » Fri Jun 20, 2014 8:37 am

Dorothy, I'll move it to "Recommended Resources" with a shadow topic left here. You'll get double coverage that way.
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Re: Creating a timeline

Postby Oldtimer » Fri Jun 20, 2014 8:44 am

Read samples of my Martian series (by Dorothy Piper) and two romances (by Joni Havel) on Smashwords.
Hard copies of all are on Amazon.

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Re: Creating a timeline

Postby MookyMcD » Fri Jun 20, 2014 12:05 pm

I use a really simple excel spreadsheet for my timelining. So, when my MC's wife gets pregnant, I add ten months to the date of conception and plug in the due date. The baby's a week late, so I put that in too. There is a major event (scheduled) and holidays and everything else, and I just list one or two word descriptions and the dates.

The beauty of it is, when I realize there needs to be a certain amount of time between things, I can just have excel give me dates by adding days to the timeline items. When I decide to have something happen before X and after Y, I can look at those dates, pick a third and throw it in. I just tack new things on at the bottom, with a rough date estimate, then sort by date and everything arranges itself.

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Re: Creating a timeline

Postby Oldtimer » Fri Jun 20, 2014 1:24 pm

Thanks, Mooky. I'm still working in Excel but it's getting difficult. I think I'm trying to cover too many people. I am writing a series and need to make my characters' trips back and forward through time dovetail with their 'actual' lives. Maybe I should try individual timelines.
Read samples of my Martian series (by Dorothy Piper) and two romances (by Joni Havel) on Smashwords.
Hard copies of all are on Amazon.

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Re: Creating a timeline

Postby deloughy » Fri Jun 20, 2014 1:27 pm

I don't know if this helps; I don't have twenty characters to keep tabs on. I use index cards. For me, they're easier to rearrange. "Oh, let's see...this doesn't work here, after all. Let's move it here." I don't like scrolling around on a computer screen and so it's nice to have the cards all laid out in front of you.
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Re: Creating a timeline

Postby Oldtimer » Fri Jun 20, 2014 1:54 pm

What do your index cards cover, deloughy? Are they for years, or for characters? I need to know what several characters are doing during the same period of time, so a different card for each character wouldn't work. But I could try them for blocks of years ... say five years per card. I'll think a bit more about this and thank you for the suggestion.
Read samples of my Martian series (by Dorothy Piper) and two romances (by Joni Havel) on Smashwords.
Hard copies of all are on Amazon.

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Re: Creating a timeline

Postby onceuponwednesday » Fri Jun 20, 2014 4:28 pm

Normally I'd say use excel. Make the rows the years and the columns all your different characters, then you can keep track of each character for each year. But since you're time traveling around you can't do something that simple. In 1605 your character Bea Arthur could be both five and ninety-five. Then in 3001 your characters Matt Perry aged: ten, twenty, thirty, forty and fifty might be getting together for a ten-year reunion party (Matt Perry thirty is such a jerk).

You could just use a cork board. Put numbers on the top to designate the years. Pick a colour of post-it note or card for each character and the same colour wool. Write down notes of what the character is doing at a certain time and pin it to the board in the right place, then use twine to connect jumping backwards and forwards in time. That way you can easily see who is where for each given year and how they got there. You can also move things around quite easily.
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Re: Creating a timeline

Postby Oldtimer » Fri Jun 20, 2014 4:45 pm

That's another good idea, Wednesday. I'll give that a try, too. Thank you. :)
Read samples of my Martian series (by Dorothy Piper) and two romances (by Joni Havel) on Smashwords.
Hard copies of all are on Amazon.

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Re: Creating a timeline

Postby deloughy » Fri Jun 20, 2014 9:03 pm

What we do in life echoes in eternity.

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